Turn off your affirmation tapes, return your self-help books and cancel your registration for that motivational seminar. I've got it. Right here, free, on the world wide internet...
The Secret to Happiness.
1. Do stuff. All kinds of stuff. Whatever pops into your head. Go for a run. Sit on the couch and fart around on Facebook, cook a seventeen course meal. Surprise me.
2. After you've finished doing whatever it is you decided on, take a minute - just a minute - to pay attention to how it made you feel. Good? Bad? Super-unbelievably-fantastic? Bored? Disappointed?
Just get a snapshot of your state of mind as soon as your done doing it.
3. Write down what you did and how it made you feel.
4. Look at what you've written and take some real time to decide why you felt that way. If you felt good, was it because you succeeded at something? Because it made you feel smart or strong or productive? Because you wanted to do it, or because someone else wanted you to do it? If you felt bad, was it because you didn't get any satisfaction from it? Because it didn't go well? Because you feel guilty about doing it? Write that down too.
5. Do this for everything you do for at least a week. Everything. Work, the dishes, drinks after work, grocery shopping...record it all. Heck, write about writing this stuff down.
Eventually, you should start to see a pattern. You should start to identify the things you do that make you happy, and the things that don't. You should start to see activities, relationships, thought processes and seemingly insignificant details that directly affect your state of mind.
Now here's the most important step:
6. Do the stuff that makes you happy. Don't do the stuff that doesn't.
Admittedly, this is a first step. There will be things that don't make you happy for whatever reason, that you must do anyway. This is going to involve some attitude adjustment, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. If you're anything like me, making an effort to dissect and examine your feelings about your daily activities will be enough of a challenge without trying to make too many changes right away.
Oh, did I forget to mention that? These instructions are simply the product of my wandering mind that were formed this afternoon as I puttered around my family-free house. They have not been tested, they are not backed by any scientifically sound research. But I'm going to start following them first thing tomorrow. I even bought a new notebook, but I never actually need an excuse for a new notebook. Buying notebooks makes me happy.